Friday Things: The Easter Edition

Let me introduce you to my new pink dogwood tree—isn’t she a beauty? She went into the back garden yesterday along with a bunch of climbing vines and two fruit trees–a Kieffer lime and a “Panache” fig (classy, huh?)  I spent a few peaceful moments last night watering everything in, grateful to have some new living things to nurture.  Then I looked out into the open space beyond our fence to the area that technically belongs to PG&E but has plantings from a previous owner that we’ve now supplemented with some shimmering pittosporum. I laughed when I saw a large potted cactus I inherited when we bought the house now draped in leftover Christmas garland and transplanted in the field of Mexican salvia.  Welcome to the beginnings of my goofy, glorious garden.

Whether you’re celebrating Passover or Easter or Spring in all it’s glory this weekend, I hope you, too, find a quiet moment to marvel at new life and unexpected juxtapositions.

Here are a few other marvelous things that caught my attention this week.

This temple went up in flames for all the right reasons.

How to make an attractive city.

A trippy light to offset seasonal affective disorder.

Frogs at the Passover Table.

For your Easter Basket, a classy set of cards.

The story behind the annual Peeps Diorama contest.

Happy Passover and Easter Weekend All!

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Last week a landscape crew ripped out most of the tired plantings and removed all the rocks that made up an ornamental dry stream bed in the upper garden.  What’s left is a whole lot of dirt potential.

“Things gonna look worse before they look better,” said my handyman Gustavo after shoring up the back deck and removing some rotten railings. He shook his head as he surveyed the garden demolition and took measurements to rebuild a decrepit wood screen in the front.

Guess so. The yard looks pretty desolate now with just a lone dasylirion left under the old oaks. Lizards sun on the rocks and robins hunt for worms but the deer don’t even bother stopping by.  Nothing worth munching here.

But soon the soil will be prepped and the irrigation installed and then we can plant new plants. My landscaper Keeyla and I picked out some old favorites like white wisteria, burmese honeysuckle and orange roses to climb up the back decks. Plus some deer-resistant perennials like red bottlebrush and sunset-colored grevilleas to light up the front driveway. A pink dogwood will blossom outside the living room window and a maple with leaves the color of Matisse’s favorite red will signal we’re home.

Last summer my brother planted a Bearss lime for me and now I’ll add both Eureka and Meyer lemons. (After you’ve had them growing in your garden, it’s so frustrating to buy them—I know, I know, us poor Californians.) At the nursery a Kieffer lime tree looked especially pretty and I added it to the order.  You might ask who really needs two different limes growing in their garden? But I figure who wouldn’t want to explore the possibilities? Kieffer lime leaves are used in Thai cooking—not something I do all the time, but will likely attempt more with one of the featured ingredients growing in my back yard.

Back from the nursery I put together a Pinterest board showing what plants are going into the garden and felt more hopeful about what’s to come.

It helped when two umbrellas the color of my soon-to-be-planted “Westerland” roses arrived to cheer me up ’til things look better.

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Seeing Green

A designer once told me that all greens go together.  ”It’s because you see so many different shades of green in nature that your eye is comfortable with a mix of greens,” she said.  But do some greens play better with others?

“Guilford Green,” Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year for 2015, would be a good candidate for Miss Congeniality in a paint color pageant.  Soft on the eye, with a sophisticated grey undertone, this green would be equally at home in a casual guesthouse or a formal salon.

Demure but playful, it’s the color of new growth or the shade of “white” poinsettia leaves.  Perfect for spring and wonderful in winter.

On this greenest of days–Happy St. Patrick’s Day!–feel free to mix your greens.

All photos from Benjamin Moore.

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Rug Talk with Designer Tineke Triggs

San Francisco designer Tineke Triggs knows that a well-designed rug can become the magic carpet in a room’s design.  ”It’s the first thing you see in a room and the foundation for the rest of the layers,” says Triggs who recently designed a bold new collection of contemporary area rugs for California Carpet. Let’s see how the collection evolved.

What were your early design influences and how did you decide to become a designer?

I grew up in the Bay Area.  My parents were immigrants–my Dad was from Holland and my mom from Scotland and our home was a combination of Danish Modern and Mid-Century Modern. Because they were immigrants they really emphasized pursuing studies that would lead to employment so I studied math and went into business.

However, I was always drawn to design, partly because I was dyslexic and so resorted to creative visual pursuits like painting and drawing. I’d always taken drafting and art classes on the side, which came in handy when I bought my first condo and began to decorate it.  That process taught me a lot of things including how to put together permit proposals and I eventually went on to become a certified kitchen & bath designer.

And now you’ve designed a line of carpets for California Carpet—how did that come about?

They approached me.  I’d been doing custom carpets for clients for years. Like most designers you find that what you want often doesn’t exist.

What were the inspirations for these designs?

Each carpet has a connection to something I’ve seen in my travels or developed through working with my clients but they’re all named for areas in San Francisco that inspire me. The Mission‘s star and cross pattern came about after I’d spent time in Europe and North Africa.

The Hayes also has a strong African influence and a very ethnic feel.

I always loved playing with an Etch-a-Sketch as a kid and I still gravitate towards repeated patterns and shapes.  You can see that in the diamond pattern in The Market.

The Marina goes in the other direction.  It’s highly unpredictable and unrestricted pattern is reminiscent of a paint splatter.  I designed it for a creative teen girl’s room in a recent San Francisco showcase house.

What makes this collection unique?

The rugs are very good quality and all customizable–you can have them made in any color combination and size.  They’re also affordable.  An 8 x 10 runs $3,000, which is in that sweet spot between inexpensive and expensive.

What would you pair them with?

Solid furnishings and layered accents mostly but you could easily add a geometric, floral or stripe.  Because the patterns are bolder it’s easier to layer bolder patterns.

Where do you go for design inspiration here in the Bay Area?

I’m a visual learner so I love to explore small boutique shops in the city or antique shops in the Wine Country.  I also frequent flea markets as well as art and museum exhibits.

What times and places are calling to you now?

Right now I’m very interested in Deco so I’m looking for those details wherever I can find them. I’m hoping to go to Spain this summer but I’d also like to make my way to Russia and Eastern Europe—places I’ve never been before.

How do you relax and revive?

I reboot physically by dancing, playing tennis and kickboxing.  That said, I really love being in a calm, quiet environment and my favorite thing to do is sit on the sofa with my teenage boys and cuddle.  I know that won’t be the case for long so I’m making the most of it now!


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Friday Things: The Artful Garden Edition

Plans for the outdoor spaces continue to evolve as I gather information and consult trusted experts.  One of those experts is Berkeley artist and landscape designer Keeyla Meadows.

I first met Keeyla twenty-some years ago when I was scouting gardens for a garden tour fundraiser for our kids’ grade school. Someone tipped me off to Keeyla’s garden and I drove right over and peeped over her fence. (Shameless, I know.) The incredible explosion of red and pink poppies waving in the sunlight looked like Mother Nature’s ultimate Valentine.

Over the years that effervescent field of poppies has turned into an art-filled outdoor gallery replete with sculpture, water features and artful plantings.  Keeyla’s won numerous awards, written two beautiful books on color and design and been published widely. It’s always a treat to write about her gardens. As I’ve pondered what to do with the unusual mix here—a stark modern home on the edge of wild, open space—I wondered if Keeyla might have some answers for me.

We met up this week and I’ve been dreaming about possibilities ever since.  Her  initial vision for the garden?  Take inspiration from a Calder mobile, creating blocks of color and incorporating movement to make the most of the architecture and the setting.  I love the idea. Can’t wait to show you how this plays out.

Here are a few other artful things I’ve been considering this week:

An AirBnB retirement plan.

Swirly water from a fabulous faucet.

Ruth Reichl uses ketchup and Worcestershire sauce to clean her copper pots.  Really.

Creativity exercises for those feeling blocked—or just housebound and bored.

“Horribly pleasing” smokestack photos.

This new-to-me Annie Dillard essay about an eagle and a weasel, brought to my attention by the fabulous folks on the Slate Culture Gabfest podcast.

And finally, a little peek into Jack Black’s California roots.

California Inspires Me: Jack Black (2014) from Nicolas Ménard on Vimeo.

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Friday Things: The Eclectic vs. Purist Edition

It’s been a while since I shared any remodeling news.  That’s because most of the interior work we wanted to do on the new house is done and we’ve been enjoying a respite from projects beyond the ongoing purging and organization of stuff.  But an early spring is upon us and a wedding party is happening here in June so I’m starting to focus on the garden and outdoor spaces.

As you may recall from earlier posts, the house was built in 1979. Set on a hillside and designed by architect Jim Jennings, it consists of 3 separate rectangles that connect at the entrance. The first rectangle houses a two story living room, the second the street level garage above a small laundry/pantry space and the third and largest rectangle features bedrooms above and below the kitchen/dining/family room.

The original design also included 3 deck areas – a narrow bridge-like walkway from the driveway to the front door, a triangular deck off the main level entrance on the view side of the kitchen and living room rectangles, and a small square deck between the family room and the wall beneath the garage.  Still with me?  3 rectangles + 3 geometric decks = 1 pristine modernist structure.

Then came Owner #2 who hired a landscape firm in 1991 to create more garden space.  A new deck and arbor were added to the front (you can see the bright blue line outlining the additional front deck dimensions above) and a series of bridges, walkways, staircases, seating areas, fences and shade trellises were built around the back to create a garden and access more of the remarkable view of the San Francisco Bay and the wooded canyon heading down to the water.  I call it the Swiss Family Robinson school of architecture.  It has a ramshackle, build as you go feeling that is clearly all wrong for the clean lines of the original 3 + 3  house.  But as we contemplate repairs and reconstruction of the deck I find that part of the charm of the outdoor space is the tumble-down nature of these secondary decks. I’m pretty sure a modernist architect like Jennings would rip them off in a heartbeat.  But I’m reluctant to let them go.

Time and money will limit what we do, but my mind is sorting out a direction to pursue.  And so I’m curious.  How have you reconciled the different aesthetic choices that a home with multiple owners will surely manifest? Did you embrace the eclectic mix or work towards restoring the intent of the original architect?

Something I’ve been thinking about this week. Also, these things:

Beautiful meditation on a wordless afterlife.

Falcon perches.

Some background on Bruce Lee’s philosophy to Be Like Water.

Why that WHITE & GOLD dress looks different to the rest of you.

I get it, Melanie.

And finally, this video about making the set for the latest Marc Jacobs fashion show featuring our daughter Claire.  Cool stuff.

Happy Weekend All!


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Mr. Turner and Oscar Fashions

Too late for this year’s Chaise Lounge Awards I saw the oh-so-lovely Mr. Turner.  The movie is a long series of vignettes about the 19th century English Romanticist landscape painter J.M.W. Turner.  It garnered a 98% critical rating on Rotten Tomatoes but only a 60% audience rating.  With good reason.  Unless you’re really into color and light–like the original “painter of light”–this movie would have you napping in no time.

We saw Mr. Turner in a small, narrow theater outfitted with rows of two seats on either side of a central aisle–think small commuter plane. And because we got there just before the film started we were sitting on the second row. Five minutes in I started thinking about calling my chiropractor.

Nevertheless, the stunning imagery and cinematography kept me engaged throughout the entire two and a half hours that actor Timothy Spall brought Turner and his paintings to life.  I winced at Turner’s personal life and marveled at how he capture sun, rain, wind and fog with paint and spit (did I mention he’s a bit off putting?).  It made me want to see the real paintings–most of which are found in the British Isles though not all together as Turner had hoped.

I dare say I strolled by the Turners in my youth as I hunted down more familiar portraits and tableaus. I don’t remember them because landscapes are lost on the young.  Now the good ones seem miraculous. Try photographing a sunset sometime and you’ll see how hard it is to capture that moment and make it unlike any other sunset you’ve ever photographed.  Turner did it using paint, watercolor, pencil, pen, ink and, yes again, spit.

Here are a few of Turner’s masterpieces interspersed with my favorite gowns from this year’s Oscar Awards, like Jennifer Hudson’s yellow sheath by Romona Keveza.

Or Rosamund Pike’s lace and satin strapless gown by Givenchy Haute Couture.

Then there was the elegant (but must have weighed a ton) pearl encrusted halter gown by Francisco Coasta for the Calvin Klein Collection on Lupita Nyong’o.

The textured confection by Alexander McQueen on Felicity Jones.

And the elegant Lanvin separates worn by Meryl Streep.

Forces of nature all.

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Best Movie Sets of 2014

This weekend is the Oscars and rumor has it that actress and design enthusiast Julianne Moore is helping to decorate the official Green Room.  I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with. I’m also excited about taking one more glimpse at the art direction and sets from the past year’s movies.

Whether it was the rat-a-tat-tatty backstage actors’ nests in BIRDMAN, the righteous ‘60s digs in SELMA or the futuristic funhouse of GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, the sets from this year’s movies enthralled and entertained.

Thanks to all the set designers and art directors who made last year’s movies BELLE-isimo. To you I present my annual Chaise Lounge (or Longue for you Francophiles) awards for the best design elements in the movies of 2014:

Best Kitchen – The colorful upstart Indian kitchen in THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY may not have earned the Michelin star but it got my vote. Runner up: The off-the-rails food truck in CHEF.

 Best Lighting – I went WILD for that little glowing tent out on the trail.

Best Color Palette–Who could resist seeing Wes Anderson’s world through rose-colored glasses in THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL?

Best Library – The multi-dimensional/time travel farm house bookshelves were (INTER)STELLAR.

Creepiest Cottage – The pool house/cottage in THE ONE I LOVE proved that fantasies–real estate or marital–aren’t always the best reality.

Best Houseboat – Spacious and done in a thoroughly modern grey-on-grey color scheme, the ark in NOAH offered a rustic-chic place to come in out of the rain.

Worst Bachelor/Bachelorette Pad – The sad computer filled room in THE IMMITATION GAME vied with Bill Murray’s ramshackle dump in ST. VINCENT and Rapunzel’s rocky tower in INTO THE WOODS for dreariest place to pine for an unrequited love.

Best Hangout – The rooftop on Tina Fey’s childhood home was the only place to find peace in THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU.

Best Chamber of Horrors – Take one urban loft piano hall add a dungeon like practice room, then mix in the wood-paneled Old Boy’s Club rehearsal room and you’re sure to get WHIPLASH. Runner-up: The eery Roman bone chapel in TRIP TO ITALY.

And now, the Grand Chaise—the one with the leopard print velvet slipcover—is awarded to The Place I Wish I Called Home:

Though I lusted after Neil Patrick Harris’s modern house in GONE GIRL, things just got a little too messy for me.  And the rap star razzle-dazzle of Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s place in BEYOND THE LIGHTS turnt me up.  But I think the tired grandeur of the viager Parisian apartment in MY OLD LADY seemed cozy cool—especially if I could bring in a few more lamps and see it in the golden glow of THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING.

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Friday Things: The Valentine’s Day 2015 Edition

Happy Friday the 13th/Valentine’s Day/President’s Day weekend everyone!  Wow, that’s quite the mashup.  Not sure what image would really capture that — chocolate covered scorpions wielding teeny-tiny American flags? I’ll stick with sparkly sugar cookie hearts and share some other sweet things to savor when you get a moment.

The romance of a pink sofa.

If Stanley Tucci were your boyfriend.

Heart Art.

Why you shouldn’t go out to eat on Valentine’s Day.

Instead, make bittersweet brownies with cranberries.

Senator Alan Simpson and his wife Ann save a relationship and share tips from their marriage (really good stuff.)

And a sweet little love song by Natalie Prass.

Happy Weekend All!



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Friday Things: The Pink Bathrobe Edition

Achew! Pardon me while I reach for another box of tissues.  It’s been awhile since I’ve had the kind of cold that keeps me up all night and napping through the day, but this week a doozy of a virus reminded me why it’s decongestants and not diamonds that are a girl’s best friend.

I tried to make the most of an excuse to lay low, but after a day or two of kicking around the house in my robe catching up on nighttime soaps (Empire, anyone?), I decided to get dressed and head into a morning session of the annual Design San Francisco conference.

On my way there I saw a woman in a pink bathrobe standing in front of a blue-green mural talking with someone on her phone. I thought, now that’s a nice color for a robe.  Then, why is she out on the street in her robe?  Was she inadvertently locked out of her apartment? Waiting for someone to drop off bagels to go with her coffee? I had more questions and would like to have rolled down the window to say “nice robe!” but the light changed and I was off to learn about color trends and how to buy and sell vintage furnishings online.

Cruising through the design showrooms, I didn’t see anything else as captivating as that spot of pink against the blue.  Made me glad I’d rallied to leave the house.

Here are some other things that caught my eye this week:

This welcoming all-white interior.

A towel warmer turned drying rack for the laundry room?

Helpful kitchen tips.

Novelist Louise Plummer’s  response to the sexist Colleen McCullough obit.

How to find fulfilling work.

Writing advice that resonated.

So are you a blamer? Yeah, me too.

Happy Weekend All!  Stay healthy.


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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.

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